Dina Colada was sweeping-up last week in a downtown Morgantown theater when she noticed a spider moving on the floor.
She captured it in a cup and sent it to a research assistant in the Entomology Department at West Virginia University.
It turns out this was no ordinary spider. It’s a brown recluse, which is normally found in warmer climates.
And it’s now the first ever documented in the state. Colada is excited by her discovery.
"I’d had an entomology class six years ago, and I knew a little bit about spiders. I really thought it was a brown recluse from the looks of it," she said.
"The spider was really dehydrated, so its body was kind of shrunk up."
Colada says what makes the find even more interesting is that she had been actively searching for brown recluse spiders for years.
She’s searched in barns, closets, and even shoes but had actually stopped looking.
And now, it’s finally happened.
"I definitely will keep a watchful eye out for more brown recluses," Colada said.
Colada took her find to Vicki Kondo, a research assistant at WVU’s Entomology Department.
Kondo says the brown recluse is usually found in the Gulf states, in warmer climates.
The researcher says the spider has several interesting characteristics.
"It’s kind of a unique looking spider that’s a brown, or a tan color. It’s most unique characteristic is the fact that unlike most spiders that have eight eyes, the brown recluse only has six eyes, in a little U shaped pattern on the head," Kondo said.
"But that unfortunately is something you would need a good hand lens to be able to see."
Kondo says the spiders are shy, hence the name recluse, and they get into cardboard packing boxes.
She calls this a very significant scientific find but says it’s important to remember this doesn’t mean brown recluses are infesting the state.
"Just because we find a single incidence of a spider being found here in Morgantown, we can’t really jump to the conclusion that the spider’s range is expanding and now includes West Virginia, given the fact that they do get shipped around constantly," Kondo said.
"I think there’s a very high probability of it having just been shipped in."
The spider Colada found is about three quarters grown, and its gender is unknown at this point.
Kondo hopes to keep it alive so researchers can learn more about it.